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A STORY OF SS GREAT BRITAIN
THE SHIP THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
The SS Great Britain is a historical museum ship and former passenger steamship that was remarkably advanced for its era. It held the distinction of being the world's largest passenger ship from 1845 to 1854 and was conceived by the brilliant engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–1859) for the transatlantic service of the Great Western Steamship Company, connecting Bristol and New York City. Notably, the SS Great Britain was groundbreaking as it combined two pioneering features - being constructed of iron and equipped with a screw propeller - in a large, ocean-going vessel. It achieved another significant milestone by becoming the first iron steamer to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean, accomplishing this feat in 1845 and completing the journey in a mere 14 days.
This extraordinary ship measured an impressive 322 feet (98 meters) in length and had a displacement of 3,400 tons. It was powered by two inclined two-cylinder engines of the direct-acting type, featuring twin cylinders with an 88-inch (220 cm) bore and a 6-foot (1.8 m) stroke. Additionally, the SS Great Britain was equipped with secondary masts to harness sail power. Its four decks provided comfortable accommodations for a crew of 120 individuals and up to 360 passengers, who were provided with cabins, dining facilities, and promenade saloons.
In a remarkable turn of events in 1970, 33 years after being abandoned, Sir Jack Arnold Hayward, OBE (1923–2015), a prominent businessman, developer, philanthropist, and owner of the English football club Wolverhampton Wanderers, funded the raising and partial restoration of the SS Great Britain. The ship was then towed across the Atlantic back to the United Kingdom, returning to the Bristol dry dock where it had originally been built 127 years earlier. Today, the SS Great Britain is recognized as part of the National Historic Fleet and stands as both a visitor attraction and museum ship in Bristol Harbour, welcoming between 150,000 and 200,000 visitors annually.